On September 01, 1983, Representative Larry P. McDonald of Georgia, along with 268 other passengers and crew aboard Korean Airlines Flight 007, died when a Soviet fighter plane shot down the unarmed civilian Boeing 747 airliner near Sakhalin Island after it had strayed into Russian airspace.
McDonald was en route to Seoul, South Korea, to attend a ceremony commemorating the 30th anniversary of a U.S.-South Korea defense pact. American officials, the general public, and the international community were outraged and the incident further embittered the already frosty relations between Washington and Moscow.
Speaker of the House Thomas P. (Tip) O’Neill described the shoot-down as “unbelievably barbaric.” Idaho Representative George Hansen declared, “It’s murder, plain murder.” Ironically, McDonald was one of the House’s most strident critics of the Soviets. An avowed anti-communist, he had been elected to the House first in 1974 and, in 1983, had assumed the chairmanship of the conservative John Birch Society.
In 1980, on the heels of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, he introduced a measure to ban trade with the Soviet Union, but it went down to defeat by a 284 to 124 vote.
Days after McDonald’s death, his widow, Kathryn, declared her candidacy for the vacant seat and won the October 18, 1983, open primary with 30 percent of the vote. But she was forced into a November 8th run-off against her closest challenger, George Darden, who prevailed and filled the remainder of the unexpired term in the 98th Congress (1983–1985).
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